Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror adds a spectacular take on the fabled Snow White saga with lots of wacky humour.

I can only think of one other film where Julia Roberts is cast in a negative role. When news broke out that Roberts will play the evil queen in this Grimm’s fairy tale adaptation, I just couldn’t resist. Let’s face it, it’s not every day you get to see the most popular actress in the world (with the best smile in Hollywood) play an evil and conniving character. In this version, the story benefits from a wacky twist and a lot of humour.

After the king disappears under mysterious circumstances, Snow White (Lily Collins) learns that her step-mother the queen (Roberts) has been plundering and looting from the people of the land. After rescuing a prince (Armie Hammer) from seven ‘little’ highway bandits, and gaining his affection, Snow White is banished to the forest when the queen sees wealth and power in the guise of the unwitting prince; besides his use as her toy-boy. Snow White must now team up with the aforementioned bandits and win back her birthright, her prince, and restore her father’s kingdom to its former glory. Thus begins an itchy cat-fight with a capital B.

Having just watched this movie, I can’t say that this is the best adaptation thus far, given its PG classification. However, considering that there are two other versions slated for a 2012 release, including a darker version starring the emotionless Kristen Stewart, I am forced to say that Mirror Mirror suffices as a decent family adventure-comedy. Having cut a niche for himself in visual aesthetics and art design, director Tarsem Singh creates a vivid and colourful world with innovative sets and costumes – a standard that is rapidly becoming his cinematic insignia after his work from The Cell to last year’s Immortals. Singh also scores with intended comic relief, given that he has had to work with a story where the audience knows what to expect. When you consider the story’s comic backbone complete with slapstick moments, Roberts’s sarcastic one-liners arising from a witty script and the ever amusing Nathan Lane as the queen’s royal subject, this movie becomes a light-hearted stab at one of the oldest and most adapted fairy tales. That said, this version sits well with the intended audience in its narration, if you go in expecting a simple and entertaining movie.

I really can’t say that I was captivated by the acting. Collins as Snow White and Hammer as the prince are just so-so as protagonists of an age old tale. Given the age of ‘girl power’, it is no surprise that Snow White here is a spirited young girl that not even for a moment, appears to be a damsel in distress. On the other hand, the prince is comical in almost all scenes, stripping (pun unintended) his character of any chivalry from the original tale. As the movie is narrated in the queen’s perspective, it becomes apparent that the story is less about Snow White and more about the queen and her vanity. This chain of thought is what gives Mirror Mirror a new spin to the old yarn. Personally, I strongly feel that Julia Roberts steals the show – not because I expected her to – but simply because the story appears to have been scripted with a lot of focus on her character. It’s almost as if this version was written by the evil queen herself.

For the most part, Singh’s work here is a tad bit above average in re-telling a grand old tale. He keeps it simple while giving it a fresh and anti-Disney twist. Then he goes and ruins it with a totally unnecessary and bizarre ending. Did Singh copy this off Tommy O’Haver’s Ella Enchanted or did he want to give the finale a Bollywood twist? Mixing Hollywood and Bollywood themes within the same movie is always risky. Danny Boyle may have gotten away with it in Slumdog Millionaire because of its theme on poverty and the hugely popular underdog factor. All said and done, if it were not for Snow White doing the “Bhangra”, I would have easily rated this film as a good start to 2012. Even so, if you are willing to overcome your disbelief in the end, the greater part of this film is not half as bad.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.